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Dukka Goat-Cheese Cheesecake

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Serves about 16

  • by from Goat: Milk, Meat, Cheese

Dukka is an Egyptian spice mixture, often used as a dip for flatbreads--first into olive oil, then into this heady, fragrant blend. This cheesecake recipe takes advantage of its unusual, full, rich, even a little savory, nose.

  • 2/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) goat butter or unsalted cow butter, melted and cooled just a bit until it's still liquid, just not hot
  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo, thawed according to the package instructions, then laid on a clean, scrupulously dry work surface under a sheet of plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel to keep the sheets moist
  • 1-1/2 lb. fresh chevre or soft goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325° F (165 C). Put the hazelnuts on a large, lipped baking sheet and bake until aromatic and lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Remove them from the oven and dump them onto a clean kitchen towel. Cool for 5 minutes, but maintain the oven's temperature.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Dump these into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.

Wrap the hazelnuts in the towel and rub them together, thereby taking off their papery skins with friction against both the towel and one another. You needn't get off every speck of skin-just most of it. Dump the hazelnuts into the food processor.

Add the brown sugar to the food processor along with the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cardamom, salt, and pepper. Process until the consistency of coarse sand.

Brush the inside of a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan with some of the melted butter. Lay a phyllo sheet in the pan, pressing it into place so that it goes up the sides and even overlaps a bit. (Keep the other phyllo sheets covered as you work with them one by one.) Brush this first sheet with the melted butter-then add a second sheet in a different direction, pressing it into place and brushing it with the butter as well. Continue on with the rest of the sheets, positioning them this way and that, never the same way twice, all pressed into place and brushed with the melted butter, lapping over the rim of the pan every which way but covering the bottom and sides completely.

Beat the goat cheese and honey in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy and light, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. You're looking for a pale, very creamy batter. Beat in the flour, vanilla, and salt just until incorporated.

Pour half this cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan, spreading it into an even layer without breaking or disturbing the phyllo sheets. Sprinkle the dukka spice mixture evenly over this layer. Then gently pour and scrape the remainder of the batter into the pan, taking care not to dislodge the dukka across the middle. Fold all the phyllo sheets over the top of the batter.

Bake until the phyllo has browned and the cake itself is set, if still waggly, when jiggled, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool in the springform pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Store in the fridge, covered, until you're ready to unlatch the sides and serve the cake, cutting it into wedges.

Photo: Marcus Nilsson

Disappointing. Using phyllo only makes sense if you are not going to cool in a refridgerator since it makes it soggy. I will use the dukka for some other recipes but will not make this one again.

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